Internet Banking: Relevance in a Changing World

Surprising, but true – Internet-based activity is not the preserve of the young “digital native” generation alone. A 2008 survey says that Generation X (those born between 1965 and 1976) uses Internet banking significantly more than any other demographic segment, with two thirds of Internet users in this age group banking online.

Gen X users have also professed their preference for applications such as Facebook, to share, connect and be part of a larger community.

This is some irony in this, since online banking, as we know it today, offers minimal interactivity. Unlike in a branch, where the comfort of two way interaction facilitates the consummation of a variety of transactions, the one way street of e-banking has only managed to enable the more routine tasks, such as balance enquiry or funds transfer.

It’s not hard to put two and two together. A clear opportunity exists for banks that can transform today’s passive Internet banking offering into one that provides a more widespread and interactive customer experience.

It is therefore imperative that banks transform their online offering, such that it matches the new expectations of customers. Moreover, Internet banking must journey to popular online customer hangouts, rather than wait for customers to come to it.

There are clear indications that the shift towards a “next generation” online banking environment has already been set in motion. It is only a matter of time before these trends become the norm.

Leveraging of Social Networks

Forward thinking banks are leveraging existing social networks on external sites to increase their visibility among interested groups. They are also deploying social software technology on their own sites to engage the same communities in two way discussions. Thus, their Internet banking has assumed a more pervasive persona – customers are engaging with the bank, along with its products and services even when they’re not actually transacting online.

Heightened visibility apart, banks can gain tremendous customer insight from such unstructured, informal interactions. For example, a discussion on the uncertain financial future among a group of 18 to 25 year olds could be a signal to banks to offer long term investment products to a segment that was previously not considered a target. Going one step further, a positive buzz around a newly launched service can create valuable word-of-mouth advertising for the business.

Collaborating through Web 2.0

The collaborative aspect of Web 2.0 applications has enabled banks to draw customers inside their fold more than ever before. Traditional methods such as focus group discussions or market research suffer from the disadvantages of high cost, limited scope and potential to introduce bias. Feedback forms merely serve as a post-mortem. In contrast, Web 2.0 has the ability to carry a vast audience along right from the start, and continue to do so perpetually. Thus, an interested community of prospects and customers participate in co-creating products and services which can fulfil their expectations.

The pervasiveness of Web 2.0 enables delivery of e-banking across multiple online locations and web-based gadgets such as Yahoo!Widgets, Windows Live or the iPhone. This means next generation online banking customers will enjoy heightened access and convenience

A New York based firm of analysts found that 15% of the 70 banks tracked by them had adopted Web 2.0, a number of them having done so within the last 12 months.

Standard Chartered Bank employees connect with their colleagues through Facebook and use the platform to share knowledge, clarify questions and participate in discussions on ongoing company activities.

Bank of America, Wachovia Bank and Commonwealth Credit Union have built a presence within interactive media to create awareness and keep up a dialogue with interested communities. They have employed a variety of methods, ranging from creating YouTube communities to launching campaigns on Current TV, a channel in which viewers determine content.

Personalisation of Online Banking

Vanilla e-banking divides customers into very large, heterogeneous groups – typically, corporate, retail or SME, with one type of Internet banking page for each. That’s in sharp contradiction to how banking organisations would like to view their clientele. Banks are moving towards customer-specificity, almost viewing each client as a “segment of one”, across other channels, and online banking is set to follow suit. For instance, a specific home page for home loan customers and another for private banking clients could well be a possibility in future.

Interestingly, National Bank of Kuwait had the foresight to do this several years ago – they enabled customers to determine which products they would view and access, and were rewarded with a dramatic increase in online transactions.

Money Monitor from Yes Bank allows customers to choose their landing page – for example, they can set “all transactions”, “net worth” or “portfolio” as their default view. Other features include the ability to categorise transactions as per customers’ convenience and the printing of custom reports.

Empowerment Online

Beyond doubt, Internet banking has created a more informed, empowered class of customers. This is set to climb to the next level once customers are allowed to proactively participate in many more transaction-related processes. The Internet has already made it possible for customers to compare product loan offerings, simulate financial scenarios and design custom retirement portfolios. Going forward, they would be able to consummate related transactions – which means, after comparing interest rates, they could originate a loan online, and once secured, they can begin to repay it online as well.

Portalisation

The emergence of Web 2.0 technology coupled with banks’ desire to personalise their e-banking to the highest degree is likely to result in “portalisation” of Internet banking. The idea of banking customers being able to create their own spaces online, filled with all that is relevant to them, is not that far-fetched. Customers can personalise their Internet banking page to reflect the positions of multiple accounts across different banks; they could include their credit card information, subscribe to their favourite financial news, consolidate their physical assets position, share their experiences with a group and do more – all from one “place”.

Money Monitor enables customers to add multiple “accounts” (from a choice of 9,000) to their page. Accounts could be savings or loan accounts with major Indian banks, or those with utilities providers, credit card companies, brokerage firms and even frequent flyer programs. Users can customise their pages as described earlier.

As banks seek to develop their Internet banking vision for the future, in parallel, they will also need to address the key issues of security and “due defence”. While it is every marketer’s dream to have customers work as ambassadors, adequate precaution must be taken to prevent the proliferation of malicious or spurious publicity. Therefore, before an individual is allowed to participate in a networking forum, he or she must have built up a favorable track record with the bank. The individual must be a recognized customer of the bank, having used a minimum number of products over a reasonable length of time. Qualitative information about the person’s interaction with the bank’s support staff (for example frequency and type of calls made to their call centre, outcome of such interaction and so on) may be invaluable in profiling the “right” type of customer who can be recruited as a possible advocate.

Collaborative Web 2.0 applications may necessitate opening up banks’ websites to outside technology and information exchange with third party sites, raising the spectre of data and infrastructure security. A robust mechanism of checks and balances must be built to ensure that the third party sites are secure, appropriately certified and pose no threat to the home banks’ sites. Likewise, before a third party widget is allowed to be brought on to a site, it must have passed through stringent security control.

Due diligence must be exercised before permitting users to place a link to another site to guard against the possibility of inadvertent download of malicious software, which could, in the worst case, even result in phishing originating from the banks’ sites.

It is equally important for a bank to guard its customers against invasion of privacy, data theft or misuse. The concept of portalisation envisages deploying technology to bring information from other banks’ or financial service providers’ websites into the home bank’s site. The home bank must ensure that its customers’ personal or transaction related information, which may be shared with the other providers, is not susceptible to leakage or outright misuse.

Banks will do well to partner with an Internet banking solution provider which has not only the expertise to translate their vision into a cutting edge e-banking experience for the user, but also the foresight to define boundaries for safety. With security concerns adequately addressed, next generation Internet banking is full of exciting possibilities. Banks that seize the opportunity may find that Internet banking can become a means of differentiating themselves from competitors, rather than a mere cost cutting tool. Clearly, providing a more powerful and interactive e-banking experience, is the way forward.

Let The St George Internet Banking Service Come Marching In

With the internet and a boom in the use and ownership of computers, laptops and smart phones the banking industry has gone out of their way to take advantage of this technology while at the same time incorporating their banking services into one package. Gone are the days of sending your payments in the mail where there is a chance it can get lost or arrive late due to unforeseen delays in the delivery.

Internet banking or online banking incorporates computer technology with the internet to give consumers such as yourself the ability to bypass those time consuming aspects of traditional brick-and-mortar banking.

With the St.George internet banking service you are able to get complete control of your financial accounts with the convenience of being able to transact banking business at any time and from anywhere you have internet access – dress code optional. What this means is that you can check balances, transfer funds or pay your bills even if you’re a couple of hundred miles away and you don’t have to worry about postage.

If you’re an environmentalist then you’re going to love this feature of the St.George internet banking service – electronic statements. Instead of getting a paper statement in the mail you get an email alert whenever an electronic statement is ready for you to view. And because it’s posted instantaneously you don’t have to wait for it to arrive like you would a paper statement. And it’s good for the environment too because no paper is used so no trees were cut down for it.

And because it’s electronic it’s stored in the St.George banking database where you can keep two years worth of statements and view them at any time. If you like you can even keep a copy in your computer so you can print it out anytime. You can opt back in to the paper statement at any time but once you’ve tried the electronic statements I doubt you’ll be going back to paper.

Another feature of the St.George internet banking service and one which all busy people would like is the BPAY or electronic payment system. No longer would you have to write out a check, find an envelope, stick a postage stamp and go to the post office. With BPAY you can pay your phone bills, utilities, credit cards, and much more from the convenience of your own home and with the click of a button almost at no time at all. That’s over 15,000 BPAY billers with just a few clicks of your mouse button. And with the recurring payment option you can set up regular payments be it daily, weekly or monthly for up to 24 months in advance. That’s less things for you to worry about.

With the St.George internet banking service you get 24/7 banking convenience with the security of their advanced banking technology that’s committed to your safety in doing online transactions. And as a bonus when you do internet banking you also save time and minimize banking fees. Is that an incentive or what!

The History of Internet Banking

Internet banking is a very important part of our new global economy. Most people really seem to take this modern convenience for granted. This article seeks to describe the history leading up to where we are today.

As early as the early 1980s, there was something called ‘distance banking services over electronic media’ which were really the forerunner to the modern online money transfer services. By the late 80’s it became popular to refer to these systems as “online” because they were accessed by connecting to a terminal with a keyboard and monitor (kind of like a PC) in order to connect to the financial systems through a telephone line.

Another precursor to online banking was called ‘Home Banking.’ This form of banking is what we would call telephone banking today but through a computer-like setup. People would call in to a service through the phone line and then send instructions to the bank using touch tone signals.

Online banking services began for the first time on a wide scale in New York City. In 1981, four New York Banks tried offering home banking services. Unfortunately, they jumped on the wrong bandwagon and tried to use the ‘videotex’ system which ultimately was a failure in the US just like beta-vision. It did, however, take off in France.

The United Kingdom also tried to offer early online banking services in 1983 through the Bank of Scotland. This system was similar to the New York System, but used a different brand of terminal to connect to the phone lines. This was commonly known as ‘Homelink’ and it allowed people to view their statements online, transfer money and pay bills. That is pretty amazing for 1983! Especially since the bill payment system worked very much the same as today’s online bill-pay systems that come standard with online financial accounts.

In the 80s there really wasn’t an internet as we know it today. It was really more of a loose web of computers which connected to each other through phone lines. However, the first financial institution to offer internet banking services to all of its members was Stanford Federal Credit Union. That did not come until 1994, another decade after these home banking systems started.

Today, there are many financial institutions that only do business through the internet. They do not have physical locations or tellers or bank branches. The world is certainly changing, but we will never be completely without physical banks.